Just four months into 2019, Rotorua downhill mountain biker Tuhoto-Ariki Pene has already spent more time on podiums than most people do in a lifetime.

So far this year, the 18-year-old has competed at multiple events in New Zealand and Australia and collected an impressive haul of medals in under-19 races.

He started the year with the three-race Mountain Bike New Zealand National Downhill Series. He finished first in Auckland and second in both Canterbury and Cardrona, which was enough to finish the under-19 series in first place overall.

"That was a good confidence-builder ahead of Crankworx and nationals. It's real good to have that mental game, you get a little bit of a push from a result like that.


"The mental side of the game is probably like 70-80 per cent of it. If you're not really mentally prepared to race it can be hard to get your head back in the game if you have an off day."

In mid-March, Pene faced one of the busiest weeks of his racing career, competing in the New Zealand Downhill Championship as well as multiple events at Crankworx Rotorua.

A crash on the final run at nationals slowed him down but he recovered well to finish a respectable fifth.

"That's still not bad, having a crash but still ending up fifth. I wasn't annoyed, it was good that I could still come back from the crash. [Crashing] is very common, it was just unlucky to have it on that one run."

At Crankworx he competed in five different events. The highlights were first place in the Junior Dual Slalom, second place in the under-19 Air DH and third in the under-19 Crankworx Rotorua Downhill.

World's top mountain bike festival coming soon. Made with funding from NZ On Air.

"It's cool having all the different events in one week, you can chop and change. We're real lucky to have Crankworx here every year, the sport is growing so much in Rotorua.

"Crankworx brings so many people over. I've made a lot of contacts overseas and when they come here it's good to see them in your hometown."

Earlier this month, Pene flew to Australia to race in the Australian National Downhill Championship, in which he finished third in his age group, before completely dominating the Oceania Downhill Mountain Bike Championships two days later. Not only did he win the under-19 Oceania race, his time was two seconds faster than the winner of the Elite Men's race.

"I was happy as and it was even better that I had the fastest time at the event. There were quite a few pros there so I was happy with that."

Pene has spent most of his life on two wheels. He started riding BMX when he was 3 and was a seven-time national champion. He started racing mountain bikes when he was 12.

"After that I followed in my brother's footsteps, he used to race mountain bikes when we were young. I kept following him down the hill and chasing him, that was pretty much it.

"I just love that rush and being on the edge, the huge jumps - that's always a buzz. I love being out in nature as well, it's so good to be out there. It's all so close in Rotorua and it has built some good riders over the years."

Pene is now back in Rotorua training and working on raising money for the start of his overseas season. Starting in late June he will race at World Cup events in Andorra, France, Italy and Switzerland, as well as the Downhill World Championship in Canada.

"It's a lot of money but it's cool that my sport lets me travel and do what I love. The best thing now would be to get on a pro team, that would help out a lot because it's not just flights, your bike might break, travelling to and from races and accommodation. To get on a team would be awesome."